The human body can put up with a lot. But without a healthy immune system, it can make it incredibly difficult to live at your best. One of the biggest factors of this natural defense mechanism is sleep. We certainly feel the repercussions of too little of it, and even too much of it! But being plagued with a poor night’s sleep can cause a vicious downward spiral as you fight to get through the day with the help of coffee, energy drinks and other stimulants, while you turn to prescribed pills to put you down come evening.
While there are many lifestyle factors to take into consideration, the standout argument here is to veer away from relying on synthetic options, which can cause a reliance, and merely mask the underlying issues, and choose holistic remedies, that, along with understanding how technology, stress, diet and exercise may influence your quality of sleep, will naturally get you back on track.
Here are four effective herbs to help you achieve better sleep:
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata):
This the perfect herb for anyone who tends to wake up frequently throughout the night. Scientists believe passionflower works by boosting levels of the chemical gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA works to decrease activity of some brain cells, which, in turn, makes you feel more relaxed. The available forms include: infusions, teas, liquid extracts and tinctures. One study concluded that the herb significantly decreased symptoms of anxiety and/or sleep disorders in patients included in the study (1).
Tip: Try 30-60 drops of the tincture before going to bed.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis):
Valerian is known for helping alleviate a racing, worried mind. It’s also thought to be a good sedative that, unlike over-the-counter pills and prescription medications, won’t leave you feeling groggy come morning. Researchers believe valerian may have a similar but milder effect of increasing GABA in the brain as prescriptions like Xanax and Valium. One study in particular found that valerian extract significantly improved time required to fall asleep, sleep quality, and a number of nighttime awakenings (2).
Tip: Because the herb is known for its unpleasant smell and taste, it’s best to avoid the tincture. Instead, try taking four capsules an hour before bed.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile)
One of the most popular herbs in the Western world, chamomile is often utilized in tea form for promoting relaxation in the evening. There are two plants known as chamomile: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman, or English, chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), but both are used to treat the same health issues. One study found that chamomile capsules effectively reduced symptoms of anxiety in people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), making it beneficial in indirectly promoting better sleep through increased mental calmness (3). Animal studies have discovered that higher doses can help sleep, suggesting it can also directly work to improve your overall sleep (4, 5).
Tip: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 to 3 heaping teaspoons of the dried herb, and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Drink 3 to 4 times per day between meals to promote calmness, and an hour before bed to promote a restful night.
Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)
Kava kava is thought to boost the mood, well being, contentment and feelings of relaxation. Like chamomile, kava is best known for promoting sleep by decreasing anxiety. One study even concluded that kava kava is the only herb that has been proven “beyond reasonable doubt” to treat anxiety in humans (6). It should be noted, however, that kava has been implicated in cases of liver toxicity in Europe, and while there is no direct reasoning for how kava is involved, it’s best to stay away from this herb should you have any liver issues.
Tip: Kava kava comes in a variety of forms, including dried extracts, tablets, capsules, or liquid drops. Try out this traditional kava recipe for a soothing drink before bedtime.
Photo Credits: Adobe Stock